How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

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Increasing and maintaining your reputation, both online and offline, is critical to the continual success of your business (or workplace). The fact is, consumers are spending more and more time researching on the Internet before making in-store purchases.

They’re relying heavily on online reviews, quickly looking past mattress stores that are peppered with negative online feedback. 

Let’s kick it off with a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I have any online reviews and if so, do I know where to find them?
  • Am I responding to any negative feedback I receive from my customers?
  • Am I using online reviews to gain more customers?
  • Am I learning from my mistakes and seeking improvement based on customer feedback?

These are critical questions to ask if you’re looking to convert online visitors into living, breathing brand advocates.

Did you know… 79% of shoppers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation?

And… 80% of shoppers change their minds about a purchase based solely on negative information they’ve discovered online.

These statistics indicate why it is so important to understand not only how to handle negative online reviews, but why you must make efforts to drive a favorable online reputation through a calculated marketing strategy.

Respond to customer feedback

This one’s pretty simple. Don’t ignore that unfortunate customer who had a poor shopping experience. It doesn’t matter “whose fault” it was. One of the worst things you can do is do nothing. Instead, take control of the situation by offering a thoughtful response to the feedback.

Sure, it’s natural to become bitter when someone rails against you online. But coming off as defensive only makes matters worse. The last thing you want to do is battle a disgruntled customer in a forum that is as public as the Internet.

Instead, here are a few quick tips to consider:

  • Don’t ignore negative reviews. They’re not going to magically disappear.
  • Before responding, take a deep breathe. Offer to fix the issue, while indicating how future customers won’t run into the same issue.
  • Be sure to address the specific issue, but don’t reveal too much information that may cause serious consequences (personal information, etc.)
  • Use your response as an opportunity to demonstrate how thoughtful and engaged your company is (in a humble way, of course).

Earn positive reviews by simply asking

One of the best “review strategies” you can pursue is working to gain positive reviews. While you may not be able to remove existing negative reviews, by earning 5-star ratings you can bump the lower-ratings down the chain.

Use the Internet’s arsenal of resources to increase both your sales and your brand prestige. Blogs, testimonials, case studies, social media - these are all excellent ways to build up your store while rooting out unfavorable customer feedback.

Here are just a few ideas on how you can gain positive online reviews:

  • Post a status update on your Facebook page, thanking your customers for your business. Then link to your Google+ page (or the review site of your choice) and request a review. Google+ will lend a hand to favorable local search engine optimization.
  • Follow up with existing customers (ideally through powerful marketing automation software) with a simple review request. This makes for a great post-sale.
  • Spotlight a “Reviews” page on your website and make it easily accessible to your customers. If you do this right, it’s possible Google will pick up your reviews in search.
  • Ask customers to leave you a review immediately following a purchase and make sure to provide them with step-by-step directions on how to leave the review.

Rather than waiting for that negative review to disappear, be proactive. And engage with a marketing automation system that will seek out positive reviews.

Learn from your mistakes and reevaluate

It’s a fact. If you’re in the business of doing business - which most likely, you are - mistakes are going to be made. If you get an unruly customer who decides to vent online about your “defective” mattress or “poor” customer service, the first thing to consider is whether there’s truth to their claim.

If the claim is indeed accurate, take it as a lessons learned. Whether we like to admit it or not, your customers do offer valid points from time to time. It wouldn’t hurt to check and see if you may have other customers who have filed similar grievances. If so, turn the negative feedback into a positive opportunity - that is, find a way to identify and correct any overlooked problems.

I have seen businesses respond quickly to negative reviews, taking a direct action to rectify the situation and having the negative review removed because of it. In fact, there is reputation management software that can help you keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to maintaining your brand’s online stature. This is the ultimate scenario and one I recommend you strive for.

To wrap it up...

By following the consumer-driven practices in Geek University, you certainly have an advantage when it comes to earning happy customers. But you still may get slapped with some negative feedback from to time to time.

Getting hit by a 1-star review is a bummer, to say the least. And, as an employee or business owner, these negative reviews can evoke a negative emotional reaction.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll not only be able to mitigate any negative feedback, but use online reviews as another tool in your marketing arsenal:

  • If you made a mistake, own it and consider it a lessons learned. Turn every obstacle into an opportunity for improvement.
  • Don’t let that negative online review go. Respond swiftly and thoughtfully with how you plan to resolve the issue. Remember, the public is watching.
  • Take an active role in seeking out reviews. There’s nothing wrong with requesting feedback from your customers.

Poor online reviews can be the downfall of a business. But if you approach customer feedback with an impactful online marketing strategy, you can turn those negative reviews into new sales opportunities and lifelong brand advocates.

Just look at it this way: Every negative review is an opportunity to improve your brand.


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